In our sequence of letters from African journalists, Zeinab Mohammed Salih seems to be at what Sudan makes of Ethiopia’s controversial Nile dam.
Unprecedented flooding in Sudan this yr led to the deaths of greater than 100 individuals and affected 875,000 others.
Complete residential neighbourhoods had been destroyed whereas energy and water provides had been disrupted when the River Nile recorded its highest degree in residing reminiscence.
Some consultants mentioned that if the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, upstream on the Blue Nile tributary, had been totally operational, the impact on Sudan would have been much less disastrous.
Ethiopia began constructing the dam in its northern highlands, from the place 85% of the Nile’s waters movement, in 2011 and this yr the reservoir behind the dam began to fill. When it’s totally operation in a number of years’ time it is going to turn into Africa’s largest hydroelectric plant.
However it has been fraught with controversy as Egypt, which is downstream, fears the $4bn (£3bn) dam will tremendously scale back its entry to water.
Negotiations, which haven’t reached a deal, are centred on how briskly to fill the dam – and Sudan has been caught within the center.
Z Mohammed Salih
Sudanese officers are strolling a decent rope to keep away from any battle”
Salman Mohamed, a Sudanese skilled on worldwide water regulation and coverage, says Egypt’s Aswan dam reveals how flood waters could be regulated successfully on The Nile.
“We misplaced individuals, and properties of billions of kilos, however have a look at Egypt – they have not misplaced a single seedling as a result of they usually hold the flood water of their excessive dam and we do not have one like that, so the Ethiopian dam may have saved all that,” he mentioned.
Sudan does have eight dams on The Nile.
“However our dams are too small,” says Dr Mohamed, who’s a fellow on the Worldwide Water Sources Affiliation.
“Egypt has managed to make use of the flood water it collected for its agricultural tasks within the desert.”
Throughout fraught talks over the filling of the dam and the way a lot water it ought to launch – which lately restarted underneath the auspices of the African Union – Sudan has tended to facet with Egypt.
This stance was adopted underneath the federal government of former President Omar al-Bashir – and the generals who stay a part of the transitional authorities now ruling Sudan after the 2019 coup are robust allies of Egypt.
Sudan’s negotiator underneath Bashir, Ahmed El-Mufti, had additionally raised issues about security and safety of the dam.
He mentioned that if it was destroyed, it may harm all the area, together with Sudan’s capital, Khartoum – the place the White and Blue Nile meet.
Extra on the mega dam:
In reality Sudanese officers are strolling a decent rope to keep away from any battle.
This was not helped final week when US President Donald Trump mentioned – while on a joint cellphone name to the Sudanese and Israeli prime ministers concerning the restoration of their nations’ relations – that Egypt would possibly “blow up” the dam.
Asmaa Abdallah, Sudan’s transitional international minister till July, has all the time maintained dialogue is the one answer.
Sudan desires to have a peaceable decision as it might see the advantages of the mega dam – not solely by way of regulating flood water, which is usually an issue.
‘Supply of African satisfaction’
In line with Dr Mohamed, it is going to additionally allow Sudan’s personal dams to generate extra electrical energy in addition to shopping for low cost and clear electrical energy from Ethiopia.
He says it is going to additionally enable for 3 rising seasons – in the meanwhile crops are harvested round October or November – but when the movement is regulated, farmers will be capable to plant and irrigate extra usually.
In years of drought, when often there’s little or no water – the dam would guarantee a provide.
As it’s Sudan solely makes use of about 12 billion cubic metres or 64% of the water it’s entitled to yearly underneath the 1959 treaty signed with Egypt over sharing the assets of the Nile, says Dr Mohamed.
Provided that the UN says about 10 million individuals in Sudan are going through meals shortages this yr – partly brought on by coronavirus lockdown measures – he can solely see the long-term advantages of the mega dam challenge.
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Alastair Leithead and his group travelled in 2018 from the Blue Nile’s supply to the ocean – by way of Ethiopia and Sudan into Egypt.
Opinion on the streets in and across the capital tends to be extra in sympathy with Ethiopia.
“We assist them as a result of we share sentiments in the direction of the Ethiopian individuals,” mentioned Salah Hassan, a 44-year-old father of 1 whose house in Omdurman, Khartoum’s twin metropolis, was partly broken within the floods.
Mohamed Ali, a 37 yr outdated residing in Khartoum North, sees it as a supply of African satisfaction – and a job alternative for a lot of.
“There are tens of millions of Ethiopians residing in Sudan now, however I feel after the dam will likely be constructed they’ll return to their nation together with many Sudanese individuals to work there,” he says.
“I assist the dam 100% as any challenge that advantages the African individuals will likely be nice.
“Individuals within the Horn of Africa suffered so much and they should have such large developmental tasks.”
However till the dispute is settled over how Ethiopia’s dam is regulated, it stays unsettling and worrying for these residing and farming alongside the world’s longest river.
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